Electrophysiological responses to visuospatial regularity


  • This project was sponsored by a Leverhulme Trust Grant awarded to MB and AP in 2010, and a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship awarded to AM in 2012.

Address correspondence to: Alexis D. J. Makin, Department of Psychological Sciences, Eleanor Rathbone Building, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, L69 7ZA, UK. E-mail: alexis.makin@liverpool.ac.uk


Humans are quicker to detect reflectional than rotational or translational symmetry, despite the fact that these patterns are equally regular. We were interested in the neural correlates of these perceptual effects. Participants viewed random, reflection, rotation, and translation patterns while we recorded EEG from the scalp. Half the participants classified the pattern regularity overtly, the other half did not explicitly attend to pattern regularity but reported rare oddball trials, where two squares were embedded among the dots. The amplitude of a symmetry-related ERP known as the sustained posterior negativity was most pronounced for reflection, then rotation and translation. We suggest that reflectional symmetry, despite its biological significance, may not be processed by unique visual mechanisms, but instead it could be a preferred stimulus for a more general regularity-sensitive network in the extrastriate visual cortex.